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Expert body needed on man-animal conflict: House Panel

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    4th May, 2022

Context

Parliament has proposed to amend the existing Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. The proposed amendment has not taken Human-Animal Conflict into the recommendation.

Background

  • Around the world, human-wildlife conflict (HWC) challenges people and wildlife, leading to a decrease in people's tolerance for conservation efforts and contributing to multiple factors that drive species to extinction
  • HWC is a significant threat to conservation, livelihoods, and myriad other concerns and should be addressed at a scale equal to its importance.
  • By allocating adequate resources and forming wide-ranging partnerships, we can move towards long-term coexistence that benefits both people and wildlife.
  • The new Amendment Bill has not taken the Human-Animal Conflict into the consideration.
  • The standing committee on Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change has submitted a report it recommends the Ministry of Environment set up an expert body to tackle the Human-Animal Conflict instances.

Analysis

What are the suggestions made by the committee?

Standing committee of the State Board of Wildlife (SBWL)

  • The new bill provides provision to create a Standing committee of the State Board of Wildlife (SBWL) to make the functioning of SBWL more purposive and target-oriented.
  • Composition:
    • 1/3rd of non-official members of the SBWL
    • 3 institutional Members
    • Director of Wild Life Institute of India
  • Standing Committee can take the powers of the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) and take decisions independently.

Human-Animal Conflict (HAC) Advisory Council

  • Committee has recommended setting up HAC Advisory Body to tackle the growing instances of Human-Animal Conflict.
  • HAC Advisory Committee will be chaired by Chief Wildlife Warden.
  • The Advisory Committee has the power to make site-specific plans and mitigation measures, which may include changing cropping patterns and critical decisions at short notice.

    Data on human-elephant conflict

    • In India, data from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change indicates that over 500 elephants were killed between 2014-2015 and 2018-2019, mostly due to human-elephant conflict.
    • During the same period, 2,361 people were killed as a result of conflict with elephants.

What are the major driving factors for Human-Animal Conflict?

  • HWC results from a variety of ecological and anthropogenic drivers that exert pressures on landscapes where humans and wildlife share space
  • Ecological drivers include seasonal changes, natural calamities, and animals' life cycles, as well as the movement patterns of animals
  • Anthropogenic drivers, such as habitat loss, changes in land use, livestock management, expansion of agricultural practices, climate change, resource extraction, infrastructure development, and urbanisation.
  • Each negative impact emerges from a complex web of interactions between drivers, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to view the effect of one driver in isolation
  • For instance, if forests are cleared for settlements or agriculture, or roads are cut into previously inaccessible areas, habitat loss and fragmentation result, forcing wildlife and people into closer proximity to each other.
  • Fulfilling the target Sustainable Development goals:
  1. No Poverty - HWC affects the income of farmers, herders, artisanal fishers, and Indigenous peoples, particularly those living in poverty and without resilience
  2. Zero Hunger - Wildlife damages food stores, crops, and livestock and puts subsistence farmers at risk of hunger
  3. Good Health & Well Being - HWC impacts people's health – both directly, when attacks lead to injury, and more indirectly, for example, when malaria rates increase as a result of farmers' need to protect their crops through the night
  4. Quality Education - Children are often responsible for time-consuming crop and livestock guarding, which decreases school attendance and lowers education standards for pupils in HWC-impacted areas, creating potentially lifelong inequalities
  5. Gender Equality - Women carry the highest burden of HWC due to their role in society and culturally defined tasks and responsibilities; for example, not only are they vulnerable to attack by wildlife while collecting natural resources but also, if they are widows, they may suffer high losses because it is culturally unacceptable for them to guard at night
  6. Clean Water & Sanitation - In arid parts of the world, water access may be reduced and risky for people as they compete with wildlife for water sources
  7. Decent Work & Economic Growth - HWC can drive the vicious circle of poverty and low livelihood diversity, resulting in the unavailability of occupational work in HWC hotspots
  8. Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure - HWC can increase as a result of linear infrastructure development that fails to consider the migratory routes and spatial distribution of wildlife, resulting in vehicle collisions with wildlife or displacement of wildlife
  9. Reduced Inequalities - HWC drives inequality of cost and benefit distribution if those who pay the price for living with wildlife do not receive the benefits of coexistence
  10. Sustainable Cities & Communities - Facing shrinking natural habitats, wildlife increasingly utilises green spaces in urban areas and pursues non-traditional food sources, which leads to urban HWC, such as the human-leopard conflict in the city of Mumbai
  11. Climate Action - Climate change alters habitats and drives human and wildlife behaviour changes, bringing humans and wildlife into closer proximity to each other, which can lead to HWC
  12. Life Below Water - Marine HWC negatively impacts the survival of many marine species, including sharks, whales, sea turtles, seals, and polar bears
  13. Life On Land - The survival of multiple terrestrial species, particularly apex predators and megaherbivores, depends on successful HWC management and coexistence
  14. Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions - Carnivores and megaherbivores create immediate safety concerns. Also, HWC can lead to demoralising conflicts between groups of people and result in inequities and societal destabilisation
  15. Partnership For Goals - Human-wildlife coexistence and sustainable development both require integrated decision making, participation, and good governance at international, national, and regional levels, plus the involvement of civil society.

What steps can be taken to manage and reduce the Human-Animal Conflict?

  • Understanding the conflict: Researching all aspects of the conflict profile to understand the context for conflict in any given situation (hotspot mapping, community attitudes, spatial and temporal characteristics, etc.)
  • Mitigation: Reducing the impacts of HWC after it occurs (compensation, insurance, alternative livelihoods, etc.)
  • Response: Addressing an ongoing HWC incident (response teams, reporting mechanisms, standard operating procedures, etc.)
  • Prevention: Stopping or preventing HWC before it occurs (fences, early detection tools, safe working environments, etc.)
  • Policy: Enabling HWC management through protocols, principles, provisions, and measures stipulated in the legislation and undertaken by authorities (international and national law, national and local HWC management plans, spatial plans, etc.)
  • Monitoring: Measuring the performance and effectiveness of HWC management interventions over time (data collection, information sharing, adaptive management, etc.)

Conclusion

The means to prevent and reduce HWC have changed relatively little over time, but the socio-cultural, economic, and physical geographies of landscapes where conflict plays out have been radically transformed by ever-growing human enterprises. Considering where we are in the wider landscape of moving towards human-wildlife coexistence, the global community can come together and collaborate to implement and scale-up integrated and holistic approaches to HWC management, and if new policies can strike an appropriate balance between mechanisms that deter negative human behaviour towards wildlife and those that promote and enable tolerance, then humans and wildlife may be able to share space more harmoniously for a long time to come.

Practice Questions

Q1. According to WWF and UNEP report, Human-wildlife conflict is among the greatest threats to animal species. Examine the causes behind rising cases of human-wildlife conflict. Suggest possible measure to tackle this growing problem.

Q2. Desertification is turning land to dust. In context of this statement, bring out the causes of desertification in India. Also, discuss the importance of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

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